International Affairs
4 May 2018 , Volume 94, Number 3

Authors

Xiangfeng Yang

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In tackling the current nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, President Donald Trump has invested a great deal of political capital in President Xi Jinping in the hopes that he might rein in North Korea, China’s traditional ally. However, expecting Beijing to ‘solve’ the problem is unrealistic. Chinese thinking on North Korea—as reflected in policy positions and domestic debates—has been marred by inconsistencies and overcaution and it is now further complicated by the intensifying geopolitical competition with the United States—that also embroils, to a varying degree, South Korea and Taiwan. Beijing has been strenuously walking a fine line between pressing Pyongyang and averting a war, all the while watching its back, particularly with regard to Taiwan and the South China Sea. Beijing’s risk aversion over North Korea and its security competition with the US has led it into a geopolitical conundrum from which there is no clear exit.

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